I’m visiting with author Jodi Hale today talking about why I like romantic fiction. Stop by and leave some love.
Tag Archives: newbie writers
Today I’m hosting multi-genre author Linda T. Kepner. Linda is a fellow NHRWA sistah and she writes a wide variety of fiction from science fiction and mystery to romance. Since her writing is so wide spread, I asked her which literary characters she’d like to have dinner with, knowing she could pull from a rich serving of folks. Read on and see who her culinary delights are and why. It’s pretty fascinating.
Peggy Jaeger asked me: What Literary character(s) would you like to have dinner with, and why?
I’m influenced by intelligent heroes and heroines. And I think the food would be as interesting as the conversation!
Archie Goodwin. Somewhere that we wouldn’t have to dress up, although he likes his dancing and a good night on the town. I would like to know if it was his love of food or adventure that made him agree to become Nero Wolfe’s leg-man. After all, he showed he really didn’t need Wolfe to survive in 20th-century New York City, and yet he says, “Yes sir,” and goes out on the next errand. Robert Goldsborough is doing a wonderful job of answering some of these questions about the pre-Rex Stout era of their partnership in the prequels he’s writing. Maybe he has talked to Archie Goodwin.
Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (aka Lady Peter), together or separately. The characters in Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey novels (continued by Jill Paton Walsh) are probably much smarter than me, but I think we could find something to talk about. It would be interesting to get Harriet’s slant on being a woman writer in a time that discouraged women writing. That’s an interesting time period, between World Wars 1 and 2. I never knew much about England’s role because my Irish-American family was so rabidly anti-English they wouldn’t even cross the border to Ontario for Sunday afternoon ice cream. And it was only ten miles away.
John Watson, M.D. I had a crush on him when I was in high school. I thought he was much cooler than Sherlock Holmes. He was ex-military, a man of action, and intelligent enough to have an advanced degree. Good-looking, too, at least in the early years, a tanned ex-soldier. I borrowed The Complete Sherlock Holmes from my high school library and renewed it continually for almost a year. I never saw the old movies, with Nigel Bruce whuffling around for comedic action, and I’m glad. The modern movie/TV Watsons are much better.
Dr. Leonard J. McCoy from the classic Star Trek series. I read the books based on the TV scripts, but they were done by an English sci-fic author who had never seen the show (James Blish). As I got older, I appreciated Blish’s writing more. He made those characters into thinking men. But McCoy’s twinkling blue eyes, his Southern background, and his skill made him very foxy, didn’t matter if he was the oldest guy on the ship. He started as an “extra” in that program, and ended up as a star. The books showed his compassion and his common sense.
Melville Dewey, aka Melvil Dui. I know, not a literary character as such – though I think someone may have written a novel featuring him. (There was a good long biographical article about him in AL – does that count?) I’d like to know how he transformed the Baconian theory of knowledge into the Dewey Decimal System (and the LC system), and how he decided to form the American Library Association. But I’d only want coffee with him, because a) he was an 1890’s university librarian, so he could be preachy; and b) he was a masher who diddled with the funds of the ALA and with more than a few of the female librarians, and got himself kicked out of the organization in disgrace. I’ll bet I’d probably end up paying for the coffee, too.
Here’s an little gift: an excerpt from Linda’s VALE OF THE VAMPIRE, book 2 in The Vampire of Manhattan series.
Vale of Vampires
(Book 2 of The Vampire of Manhattan series)
At Good Hope Hospital and Hanford & Bogie Publishing, life goes on. Dr. Benjamin Smith has become the official physician of The Vampire of Manhattan. Dr. Aden Drinan grudgingly acquires a mentor in Brooklyn. Bill Sniffen gallops off to Canada after a hot story. Rosa resists being packed off to Italy. Jenna McArdle wrangles authors, editors, publishers, and the health issues of her last remaining family member, Jimmy.
Then Sniffen vanishes in Canada, and Jenna goes looking for him. During her travels, she meets a wise vampire hunter, a kindly Quebecois trapper, and a sophisticated vampire lord. Then Jenna also disappears, and the doctors begin searching for her. The jaunt to Canada promises to be a walk in the park. Central Park. After midnight. On a very bad night.
“So that’s where you stand.” Fletcher set down the glass with a thud.
“That’s where I stand.” In one smooth motion Drinan refilled the glass, again without asking.
“You don’t screw up, Drinan, that’s the pisser.” Fletcher took another sip of the cognac in the spirit in which it was given. “They can gossip about your women and bitch about you skipping hospital meetings, but there’s not a doctor alive who’d say that Aden Drinan ever ditched a patient.”
“That’s the way I want to keep it.” Drinan also sipped cognac. Looking into the glass, he added, “That’s what’s important to me.”
“More important than your women?”
Drinan met his gaze. “Yes.”
Fletcher seemed greatly subdued, more than two shots of cognac should have done. He stood. “I’ll think about what you’ve said.”
“All right.” Drinan stood, too, and saw his guest back out into the darkened halls of the Doctors’ Annex. He shut the office door and sat down again in his chair. Thoughtfully, he put the cognac away. Fletcher was a good doc. All he needed was a little time.
The telephone rang. Drinan looked at the clock. Six o’clock on a Friday evening. A fine time for an emergency. Just when he wanted to get out of the office for a while. He could pretend he was not here; but he never did.
“Why, you still are at the office.”
Her voice made him smile. The weariness melted away. “Hello, Jenna. What can I do for you?”
“Do you have a date?”
“Well, then. The Rainbow Room. Eight o’clock.”
“That’s the best offer I’ve had all week.”
“It must have been a heck of a week.”
“It was. Are you getting too liberated, or may I still pay our way?”
“Oh, you may, if you insist. I admit I’m going to ask you for a favor.”
“Not the Secret Life of Aden Drinan, I hope.”
“Oh, no. Not at all. Something far more mundane. I will go out and buy you a boutonniere, though.”
“I can live with that,” said Drinan. “Thanks, Jenna. I don’t know how you knew I needed some time away from this.”
“I have psychic powers,” Jenna said. “Some experts in the field have told me so.”
Linda Tiernan Kepner has loved genre fiction – science fiction, mystery, fantasy, and romance – since she was a child, although not much was available in “serious northern” New York State. Except for Canadian television and books available in school libraries, there was none to read – so she wrote her own. She has been writing since third grade, but truly published since the 1990s.
Linda’s science fiction and fantasy short stories have appeared in Absolute Magnitude magazine and anthology; Reality’s Escape; Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Dreams of Decadence; FantasticStoriesoftheImagination.com; and the anthologies Little Shop of Poisons and Potions, The Apothecary on the Street of Dreams, The Life and Times of Griswald Grimm, and Decopunk.
So far, Linda has published seven novels: Play the Game and Planting Walnuts (science fiction); Second Chance and Second Chance Sister (romance); The Whisperwood Ordinaire (fantasy fiction); and the paranormal series featuring the Vampire of Manhattan, Loving the Vampire and Vale of Vampires (to be released early June 2015, two books to follow).
Find Linda here, most often:
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Linda-Kepner/e/B009BQY0XW
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Linda-Kepner?store=allproducts&keyword=Linda+Kepner
Storytellers use certain techniques to give their tales the most flavor and intrigue they can. The simple turn of a phrase, the order in which they divulge information, how the five senses are employed through the showing and telling of the story, are all ways writers tell a tale.
It’s no different, I feel, with a romance story.
How do your characters meet? Do they already know one another from their pasts? Are they friends of friends? Co-workers? Or do they glance across a Dunkin Donuts and see one another for the first time?
What past experiences have influenced how they see their present lives and how they deal with the people surrounding them? Are they receptive to love at this time, or do they shun it? Why?
Does one partner “fall” faster than the other, and if so, is it revealed or kept hidden?
Little physical nuances the characters show around one another and with no one else, provide clues to how fast and hard they are falling.
Now, take those characters, their backstories, and their present emotions, and weave a romance story around it.
It sounds a great deal easier to do than it really is. While many critics say romance stories are formulaic and predictable, there is nothing predictable about falling in love. Every human is different in how they think, react, emote, and live. It stands to reason the way they each fall in love is individual as well. A master storyteller is able to divine those differences, have the characters equipped with tools to overcome them, and create a happy ending for all involved.
In Pride and Prejudice, my all time favorite romance story, Elizabeth and Darcy fall for each other in totally divergent ways. You can see he is instantly attracted to her as a woman, but her station in life makes it hard for him to admit it to himself or anyone else. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Elizabeth despises him for most of the book. It is only when he reveals his true, kind self during the Wickham/Lydia incident, does she really get to know the person he is and her heart quite literally turns over for him. The obstacles they face of class difference and family connections make it a difficult road to happily ever after, but in the end, their love for one another helps them overcome these seemingly insurmountable problems.
Austin was a master storyteller in the way she doled out information about her characters to the reader. She shows Darcy, arrogant and haughty in his words and actions towards the Bennett family, so much so that most readers don’t like him for the first hundred pages or so. But when his softer, loving side is revealed in how he deals with his sister, we get a better feel of the true man he is. When Elizabeth is allowed to view this side of him, her heart begins to soften.
A true and gifted storyteller is able to make you think the hero and heroine will never get together, never be able to overcome the obstacles in their paths, never find that proverbial road to everlasting happiness. This is the old fashioned basis and tagline for a romance: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. When the hero and heroine finally make it to the last pages, the reader is rewarded doubly. First, with their hoped for happily ever after ending, and second, with the knowledge and satisfaction of watching two people struggle and yet still come out on top in the love department. This is the essence of a fabulously written romance.
Remember what it felt like when you fell in love for the first ( and hopefully last ! ) time. What was your story? A fast fall, or a slow, subtle buildup? Where you friends first? Co-workers? Committee members? Were you set up or did you meet by happenstance? All these little factors make your love story different from every other one, and THAT is the true process of a well written romance.
Check out how two pair of my H/H Fell in love.
If you could come up with one sentence about what I write that defines my “brand” it would be Writing about families and everlasting love. The love part is easy to understand: I write romantic fiction. The family part needs a little explaining.
I was, and still am, an only child. Both my parents remarried after they divorced each other, but neither had more children. I’m it. Some people might think this is like winning the presents and attention lotto. I’m the only one who gets birthday, Christmas, Easter and every other gift-giving holiday, presents. I’m also the one who gets all the individual attention from the parental units. I don’t need to share my parents with anyone else.
In a perfect world this would be great. But we don’t live in a perfect world.
My biological parents despised one another and their anger and disgust filtered down to me. I don’t have any memories in childhood where one of them actually said something nice about the other. It was always a negative comment. In fact, I was told I was so much like the other parent (from both of them ) that this increased the animosity they had for one another and the anxiety I had being around them. When I would dream at night I frequently dreamed of either being an orphan or being in a humongous clannish family.
All 4 of my parents (step and biologic) are still alive, so no orphan state. But I did – luckily – marry into a huge family that I feel is clannish, but in the best sense of the word.
So, when I started writing romance I knew what I wanted to write about were families. The good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful – of which there are equal parts in every family structure.
Since I am an only child, I know firsthand how to write about that. And I have. Many of my stories are about an only child struggling to find the perfect life. Throwing an only into a large family pond is a great way to increase conflict, bring about change both internally and externally, and to encourage growth to happen on every character’s part.
Large families have their own individual ethics, rules and codes for everything from acceptable behavior, to kitchen duties. Throwing an independent only child as an adult, into this dynamic where everything from work to feelings are shared as a whole, and not singularly, is a sure-fire way to ramp up the conflict and tension between the main characters, especially if the only is stuck in his or her ways.
Large families are fun. They can also be soul sucking, heartbreaking, and destructive. But when they are accepting, open and loving, the plot almost writes itself. No one knows you better than the members of your family, and no one will go into battle for you in a heartbeat other than those closest to you.
Friends and acquaintances move in and out of you life – that’s natural. But family is forever. No matter what the circumstance, the emotional outbursts, the jealousies or the failures, your family is ALWAYS your family.
And in my book, the bigger the family, the better!
Birth order, sibling dynamics, and families are truly fascinating to read – and write – about.
Where would Nancy Drew be without George Fayne? Where would Huck Finn have wound up without Tom Sawyer? Scarlett may have derided her, but Melanie Wilkes was her best friend hook, line, sinker and soul. What about Elizabeth Bennett and Charlotte Lucas? Without Charlotte, Lizzy may just have wound up married to the horrible Mr Collins. Charlotte did her a solid by marrying the little worm. Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and even Hermione, were the best of ‘mates. And dear God, could we have had Sherlock Holmes without John Watson?
In my last post I talked about my friends and what having them in my life means to me. Literature is chock-full of besties and we are all better for having shared in their friendships, albeit second hand.
Friends in literature serve so many purposes aside from simply being “a friend.” They are foils for one another’s characters; sounding boards for ideas, problems, and resolutions; cheerleaders and soul soothers, and best of all, the true friend will always steer you in the right direction when you are going the wrong way, tell you if you have spinach in your teeth, and hold your hair back when you need to vomit. This last one is literally and theoretically!
My two favorite books of all time are Gone with The Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Both are rife with the beauty and detail of friendship. In both, the main characters of Dorothy and Scarlett need to find their way: home and in life. The TinMan, Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow all help Dorothy face trials, tests, and tribulations in order to find her way back to Kansas, to Auntie Em’s loving care, and to discover her heart’s desire. Scarlett is Melanie’s opposite in every way, except in their love for Ashley, and in this opposition of character details, each woman brings out the best in the other. Despite what many historians have postulated, I really do think Scarlett’s road to redemption begins when she brings Melanie back to Tara after the birth of Beau. She risks her life to make sure they all get home safe and sound. Whether you believe it is for a selfish reason, such as ensuring Ashley knows Scarlett helped his wife, or – like me – because deep down Scarlett was truly a good and loyal person, their relationship ( Scarlett and Melanie’s) is the strongest and most enduring in the novel.
When a writer creates friends, he/she needs to know what each friend brings to the relationship table. It’s simply not enough to have the main character have friends. They serve purposes, both positive and negative, and these purposes enrich the novel and the character’s quest. They play off one another, spark ideas between them, and – such as in the case of Holmes and Watson – better the lives of the people surrounding them. Ron and Hermione show Harry Potter that people do care about him -not because he is a wizard – but because he is a person with feelings and desires, just like they are. Sharing triumphs, failures, tears, and joy are just some of the emotions friends go through together.
Think about your favorites books. What are the friend relationships like? Is the book made better because of them? What does each friend bring to the relationship table for the main character? When you write, think about these facets. Your book will be richer for it, and sound more true-to-life.
I don’t think it’s a lie to say I’m verbose. As in, long winded, wordy, loquacious, garrulous…you get the message. My daughter read something of mine once and critiqued it by asking, “why do you say the same thing three times, differently? Why not just say it once, effectively?”
So happy her Dartmouth education paid off, because, really, she was right.
I write fast – no surprise there, since I talk and think fast. Quick witted is what an admirer said of me once. My first drafts go on for hundreds of pages. Dialogue, exposition, explanation. Words and words and words. I just write whatever comes into my head while my fingers follow. I talk this way, as well, so it’s not a bombshell to admit my writing reflects this. If I got paid by the word I’d be a quadrillionaire ( if there is such a thing).
Even now, as I’m typing this, I find myself saying the same thing in different ways just to make sure you, dear reader, get it.
Robert Parker and Elmore Leonard were two of my favorite writers when I was penning mysteries. Their dialogue was always spot on, even if it was a one word rebuke or answer to a question, and their descriptions required no more than a sentence or two for the reader to get the visual. They trusted their readers to understand what they were trying to convey and we always did. I live to write this way. The nicest compliment a reader can give me is that they “vividly saw what I wrote when they read it.”
I just submitted a story for a new series that will be coming out next Valentine’s Day. The word cap was 10-20 K, maximum. My stories are usually 85,000-100,000 words, easily. Writing this story for submission was an excellent way for me to learn to curtail my logorrhea. First draft was 27,615 words – and I thought all of them should be kept. No. They couldn’t. I had to eliminate at the very least 7,615. That’s a full scene for me.
Second draft I got it down to 22,005. Still not enough.
I had a dream one night on how to tighten a scene and BAM! the next day I got it down to roughly 14,500. This was good. I read the story at least 20 times, gave it to a friend and read little snippets to my coworkers. They all agreed I should leave it as it stood. Don’t add. Don’t subtract.
I agreed. Today I submitted it to my Editor. We’ll see what happens, but this exercise taught me the benefit of culling extraneous words, tightening longwinded and rambling scenes, and focusing in on the specifics of the story and not worrying about the extra stuff no one needs to know about. As a writer, this is a good thing.
It’s not exactly a bad thing as a person either, since I do tend to ramble on and on and……..